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@souvikstweets "S!" (Bangalore, India)

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The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It
The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It
by Kelly McGonigal
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 15.11

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nuanced science & surgical insights, 8 July 2012
I wanted to start with "Rarely, if ever..." but quite a few of the books I've read lately do a very good job of explicating the science & tie it to specific actions we can take in the light of that science. And this book is no less rewarding if such is your expectation.

In my mind, the greatest value of this book, to start with, is in the mere recognition of willpower problems. For example, during my long (Ok, longish...) runs, I've often given in to a 30 to 60 sec temptation of walking a little. I'd never have thought that this was a willpower challnge & always thought of this as "not pushing too hard, should a injury happen" but this book made me realize if there was cash prize at the end, I could easily push myself to do it. So the question was never really about fatigue, it was about motivation. Similarly, in recognizing the continuous challenges of willpower - from that of indulging while feeling bad or while feeling good, to the futile chases after "happiness", or our mistaken notion of happiness - lies the many tactical takeaways for its readers.

Its made better by the science behind. At least, for those of us that are interested. I'd say here that if you're pursuing a good general & holistic appreciation of the brain's working, this is not the best book (for example, there is no content on memory & how cortisol overdose can lead to chronic stress) but the science is just enough to understand isolated concepts pertaining to the willpower challenge at hand. So if that kind of thing interests you, then you can dig deeper for the actual neurological workings (this book has a great bibliography) after understanding the basics from reading this.

And thirdly, just the plain & simple knowledge of the case studies is empowering. It is a great help to know that these challenges have been isoloated, experimented with & eventually overcome by deploying certain strategies. Just the knowledge of something is "do-able" was very empowering for me.

McGonigal writes with clarity & plentiful humour. The book is structured very well, & the chapter summaries help a lot in quick refreshes - I'd say this book was one of my best science reads this year.


A Few Degrees from Hell: The 2003 Badwater Ultramarathon
A Few Degrees from Hell: The 2003 Badwater Ultramarathon

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Facinating stories of digging deep, 8 July 2012
This book documents both first hand & Ludwig's accounts of racers & their crew that competed in the 2003 badwater ultra. Not everyone finds a place in the book, but there are 26 chapters, organized from the toppers to the did not finishers, that tell inspiring stories of human endurance. Needless to say that everyone who competed had some sort of a background in distance running but the other striking commonality among all of them was, in a way, philosophical, even spiritual. Runner after runner talks about finishing the badwater merely to see if it could be done, if they could push their bodies, minds, & strip-bare emotions to the brink & survive, if not conquer, the picturesque & but terribly cruel stretch of land.

The runners form a colorful bunch of personalities & they stamp their stories with their persona. Some are meticulous in detailing their overall experience, some write in a documentary fashion - writing the facts in a dry, matter-of-fact way -, some are outright funny in their writing, & some are, well, just excellent runners.

I had not read a book about ultra running before this, so it was a learning experience for me reading about all the preparation that goes into running an ultra. Though the 'practice' is fundamentally a physical exercise, I'm pretty sure that all these fine human beings have very well developed mental faculties which we see in action but do not learn about the developmental process.

Overall, the quality of inspiration that one could derive from reading this book is stupendous - the quality of writing does not quite match up as often.


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